Laquita Gardner, a sales manager at a furniture rental store here, was happy to get a raise recently except for one problem. It lifted her income just enough to disqualify her and her two young sons from Medicaid, the free health insurance program for the poor.
She was relieved to find another option was available for the boys: the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, that covers nearly nine million children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other coverage.
If you haven’t noticed, I love some good new research that challenges the conventional wisdom. We’ve got a live one today.
You hear it everywhere you go, from true experts to lawmakers to the average Joe or Joan on the street: The uninsured just go to the emergency room when they need medical care, and that’s one thing that keeps driving up our health care costs.
But a new paper at Health Affairs, authored by researchers from Harvard, the University of Illinois, and MIT, challenges that assumption.
They actually found that uninsured adults go to the emergency room about as much as people with private insurance (12.2 percent of the uninsured made an ER visit in 2013 compared to 11.1 percent of the privately insured) and much less than the people on Medicaid (29.3 percent).
Danny’s death this autumn wasn’t nearly as bad as the weeks before it. My husband’s eldest brother died in November at age 71, just two months after entering a nursing home in apparent good health.
Healthy physically, that is. Daniel Meyers had begun the slide into dementia by his early 60s. It wasn’t Alzheimer’s; his family suspects the decades he spent as a commercial deep-sea diver before his last, devastating case of the bends – brought up too fast in a diving bell – ended his career.
In truth, it was a little hard to tell where “Danny being Danny” left off and the dementia began. He was goodhearted and eager to help anyone with anything (whether they wanted help or not, as one funeral joke put it), a magnet for women and a gifted but quirky handyman who had trouble committing to both relationships and construction jobs. He left behind a string of broken hearts and half-tiled bathrooms. Invoicing was an occasional thing, and when his abilities to carry out even simple tasks failed him in later years, he moved from his apartment to a garage and to living in his van, until his family placed him in assisted living and, finally, in the nursing home.
An opinion piece in Stat by Haider Warraich, a cardiologist at Duke University Center, suggests that if nonprofit hospitals knew what was good for them, they would begin to live up to the spirit of their tax status far more substantively and assertively. As Warraich explains:
My own fear is that if academic medical centers and other nonprofit hospitals don’t reform themselves, their nonprofit status might become threatened. There have certainly been rumblings in that direction. In 2013, Pittsburgh’s mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, sued the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, challenging its nonprofit status. The IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of a hospital early this year because it failed to conduct a community needs assessment. The tax-exempt status of hospitals has also been challenged in courts with mixed results.
After years of studying the causes of asthma, a pediatrician-turned-public health sleuth thinks there’s a way to substantially reduce its impact.
But the approach faces a big hurdle: getting someone to pay for it, said Dr. Elizabeth Matsui, a professor at Johns Hopkins medical school in Baltimore.
Matsui, who suffered from asthma as a child, has spent much of her career studying the link between poor housing and asthma in low-income neighborhoods. In particular, she’s looked at the effects of mouse allergens, typically found in high concentrations in urban homes.
Some people with Type 2 diabetes were able to put the disease in remission without medication by following a rigorous diet plan, according to a study published today in the Lancet medical journal.
“Our findings suggest that even if you have had type 2 diabetes for 6 years, putting the disease into remission is feasible,” Michael Lean, a professor from the University of Glasgow in Scotland who co-led the study said in a statement.
The researchers looked at 149 participants who have had Type 2 diabetes for up to six years and monitored them closely as they underwent a liquid diet that provided only 825 to 853 calories per day for three to five months. The participants were then reintroduced to solid food and maintained a structured diet until the end of the yearlong study.
Health care giant UnitedHealth Group reached a deal to acquire a medical group with nearly 300 clinics, as well as 35 urgent-care centers and six outpatient surgery centers.
UnitedHealth said it would pay $4.9 billion for El Segundo, Calif.-based DaVita Medical Group, adding to its roster of medical services as the insurance giant expands.
The deal comes as many insurance companies look to diversify their businesses to add more medical treatment offerings, data capability and other services. Earlier this week, insurance giant Aetna announced a deal to sell itself to drugstore chain CVS Health, which plans to expand its medical services following the deal.
In another example of the blurring boundaries in the health care industry, UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest insurers, said on Wednesday that it is buying a large physician group to add to its existing roster of 30,000 doctors.
UnitedHealth’s Optum unit will acquire the physician group from DaVita, a large for-profit chain of dialysis centers, for about $4.9 billion in cash, subject to regulatory approval. DaVita operates nearly 300 clinics across a half-dozen states, including California and Florida.
With the purchase, UnitedHealth is increasingly moving into the direct delivery of medical care.
The Sacramento City Fire Department has asked permission to increase the cost of a trip to the hospital by $650 .
Deputy Chief Chad Augustin says that includes a $375 increase for existing services and a new $283 “First Responder Fee.”
With the additional charges, a trip to the hospital would cost $2,100.
Augustin says it has been five years since the last rate increase and the fire department routinely comes up short, even with tax-funded subsidies.
“Currently we bill around $70 million a year for ambulance transport,” Augustin says. “We collect around $18 million. We have never sent anyone to collections.”